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Smooth (and cheaper) sailing for boaters

Good news for frugal Maryland boaters — a partnership between the Inner Harbor-based Baltimore Marine Centers and three Annapolis marinas allows annual slip holders in one city to receive a docking discount at the other.

Gil Moore, a member of Baltimore Marine Centers Harborview location since 2010, is among hundreds of boaters who can take advantage of cost savings through a new partnership between Baltimore and Annapolis marinas. He keeps his 30-foot sailboat at the Baltimore marina.

“We are always looking for ways to bring added value to our annual slip holders,” Dan Noor, BMC’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “This is one way we can enhance the boating experience for BMC customers.”

BMC operates five marinas around the Inner Harbor. The partnering Annapolis marinas are Annapolis Maryland Capital Yacht Club, Orchard Beach Marina and Chesapeake Harbour Marina, which are owned and operated by Jerome J. Parks Companies.*

According to BMC’s director of sales, Jessica Bowling, the discount will allow annual slip holders at the participating Annapolis marinas to pay $1.50 per foot of boat length per day when docked at a BMC marina. Typically, it would cost boaters as much as $2.50 per foot per day. Boaters can also get 25 percent off services at Pier 7, BMC’s full service boat yard.

Eric Bradley, marina operations manager for the three Annapolis marinas, said that Baltimore slip holders would get 25 percent off the transient (temporary) docking rate at the Annapolis marinas.

Bowling said the partnership would increase BMC’s customer base, introduce current customers to new options and add value to both Baltimore and Annapolis boaters.

“It’s a win-win-win,” she said.

Bradley agreed, saying that both cities’ marinas stood to benefit. He added that customers would have more varied experiences by visiting the other city’s marinas.

“Everyone will see an uptick,” he said.

Such partnerships are becoming increasingly common and financially sound, according to Jonathan Sweet, editor-in-chief of BoatingIndustry.com, a trade news website.

“It just makes sense to expand their boating footprint,” Sweet said. “It’s about trying to find ways that these companies can work together to expand their base.”

Maryland has more than 200,000 registered boats, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Susan Zellers, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, applauded the partnership, saying that it would encourage Maryland boaters to take out their boats more — and, in the process, discourage them from selling their vessels.

“We’re always looking for ways for getting people out boating,” Zellers said. “An idea like this is a great one.”

The economic downturn hit the boating industry hard, according to Sweet. While it started to improve last year, people are still hesitant to make big purchases, which results in fewer boat sales. Even an entry-level aluminum boat can cost about $10,000, and fiberglass boat prices start closer to $20,000.

Bowling said while the economy did not specifically affect the plans for the Annapolis partnership, the recession encouraged BMC to pursue cost-conscious strategies as a whole.

According to Zellers, the boating industry has the potential to boost local economies, since boat owners typically spend 10 percent of the boat’s value every year in maintenance — and larger boats can cost millions. She added that a May bill that capped the state’s boat excise tax at $15,000, has encouraged the sale of high-end boats and hopefully is encouraging more boat owners to dock in Maryland.

Annapolis, colloquially known as “America’s Sailing Capital,” hosts the United States Powerboat Show Oct. 3-6 and the United States Sailboat Show the following week. BMC’s HarborView marina hosts the similarly popular TrawlerFest from Sept. 24-29.

*This story was edited Aug. 19, 2013 to correct the name of the owner of the marinas.